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Posts Tagged ‘Birds’

 “I made a circle with a smile for a mouth on yellow paper, because it was sunny and bright.” Harvey Ball

Bullock’s Oriole and American Goldfinch

Bullock’s oriole. This one was all puffed up on a cold morning. — Photo by Pat Bean

There are two birds I have seen almost every day since I arrived in Southern Idaho, a Bullock’s oriole and an American goldfinch.

The oriole hangs out in an untrimmed area of the manicured park located to the rear of my RV site. Its landscape is dotted with Russian olive trees, sagebrush, a few small cottonwood trees and tall grasses.

In the cool of the evening, when I sit outside with my binoculars in hand, I almost always see an oriole, or two or three, flit about in the foliage, lighting up whichever branch or twig they land on like a Christmas ornament. I often point it out to campers who stop by. Oohs and ahs are the usual reactions.

American goldfinch: Hanging out on a willow tree next to the lake. — Photo by Pat Ban

Competing with the oriole for the golden-yellow award is the American goldfinch. Last year they hung out at the finch feeder bag I put out near my RV, but since I haven’t put that out this year, I usually see them flitting among the shoreline trees near the park’s Upper Lakeview campground.

It’s common, however, for me to spot these two birds just about anywhere in the park. I never tire of seeing them.

Bean’s Pat:: Daily Diversion http://onetrackmuse.com/ One big, odd pig. What’s up in your neighborhood. Blog pick of the day from this wondering wanderer.

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 “The very idea of a bird is a symbol and a suggestion to the poet. A bird seems to be at the top of the scale, so vehement and intense his life … The beautiful vagabonds, endowed with every grace, masters of all climes, and knowing no bounds – how many human aspirations are realized in their free, holiday lives – and how many suggestions to the poet in their flight and song!” – John Burroughs

Delightful, Colorful, Awesome Birds

Great blue heron at Lake Arrowhead State Park -- Photo by Pat Bean

From the Bullock oriole’s flash of bright orange feathers as it flew across my path to the Canada geese that strutted down to the lake, birds were constantly making their presence known during my visit to Texas’ Lake Arrowhead State Park.

For an avid birder like myself, it was better than my favorite Jack-in-the-Box chocolate milkshake high — and came without the calories.

Mockingbirds were plentiful, making my mind play tricks on me when I saw one that didn’t quite fit in. I was thinking it might have been a tropical mockingbird, but then this quite-out-of-place species was on my mind from reports of one of them being seen in Texas’ Sabine Woods. I certainly wasn’t sure enough of my find to add it to my life list of birds.

Canada geese strutted across the manicured lawn near the fishing pier, making it easy to photograph them. I wish I had been able to capture the flock that had honked their way overhead earlier in the morning. But as I remind people often, I'm a writer not a photographer, and the only camera I own is a pocket Canon point and shoot. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I saw a great blue heron at the fish-cleaning station near the park’s fishing pier, but before I could get a picture,  it flew away. It landed in the lake on the opposite side of the pier and began fishing for its breakfast.

When I looked at it through my binoculars at it,  I saw a dozen or so spotted sandpipers cruising the shoreline in front of it, and a yellowlegs a bit farther out in the water. It had to have been a lesser yellowlegs because it was too close in size to the sandpipers to be a greater.

As I continued to watch the sandpipers, a red-winged blackbird flew in beside them. Its shoulder epaulets were so brilliantly red that they made my heart skip a beat.

Grackles, robins, snowy and great egrets, swallows (cave, I think), killdeer, scissor-tailed flycatchers and circling turkey vultures were among the many other birds at the park that I saw.

While I suspect the park is mostly favored by fishermen, it’s now on this birders list of favorite places, too.

Bean’s Pat: Trees for Arbor Day http://tinyurl.com/crhxqtu For tree huggers like me, a slide show from the National Wildlife Federation.

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” A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken.” – James Dent.

An absolutely perfect morning at Agua Caliente Park in Tucson. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Audubon Bird Walk

As I often do when traveling around the country, I check out what the local Audubon chapter has on its activity calendar.

Here in Tucson, where I’m currently squatted visiting my youngest daughter, that included a bird walk this morning at the city’s Agua Caliente Park. My daughter, although not a birder, accompanied me.

It was a beautiful place to walk, with manicured lawns, ponds and desert-landscaped gardens.

Everyone took a little break from birdwatching to watch the turtles. -- Photo by Pat Bean

My bird list for the day included great-tailed grackles, vermilion flycatchers, yellow-rumped and Lucy warblers, lesser goldfinch, a verdin, mallards, Gambel’s quail, turkey vulture, Cooper’s hawk, northern cardinal, northern beardless-tryannulet, curved-bill thrasher, cactus wren, common raven, cedar waxwing, chipping sparrow and red-winged blackbird.

The most oohed an aaahed-over bird was a green-tailed towhee, which was passing through on its migration farther north. I, however, was more impressed with the Abert’s towhee. Although a much plainer bird, it was the only one among the day’s find that was a life bird for me.

It’s a common bird that sticks around all year in the Tucson area but can’t be found much outside of Arizona. It brought my life list of bird species seen up to 701.

How could it have been anything but a perfect morning?

Bean’s Pat: 400 Days ‘Til 40 http://tinyurl.com/cohgl7p   It’s OK to cry. I agree, perhaps because I’ve recently done a lot of it. And there was nothing anyone could do to make things better, except to simply be there for me.

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There's gotta be a tasty morsel down there somewhere -- Photo by Pat Bean

“For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive.”– David Herbert Lawrence
 
Bird Talk
 
Went birding this morning instead of posting my blog. So all you get today is a picture of the great egret I watched fishing for its dinner at the Sea Center in Lake Jackson, Texas.  I hope you had a great day, too.

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“An artist is a dreamer consenting to dream of the actual world.” George Santayana

Birdcage Mural at the St. Louis Zoo -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

Inspiration for a blog topic eluded me this morning. After an hour spent reading e-mails, favorite blogs and the depressing news in the New York Times, I still hadn’t come up with a keyboard burner.

Spoonbill nest against the frame of the Birdcage -- Photo by Pat Bean

So I did what I usually do when this happens. I peruse the photos I’ve taken since my canine traveling companion, Maggie, and I began living and traveling full-time in our RV, Gypsy Lee. Thankfully I have seven years and over 123,00 miles of fodder to search for an idea. The walk back down memory lane is always pleasurable so I’m not complaining.

This morning my fancy was stopped at the St. Louis Zoo, home of the Birdcage. This walk-in aviary was built for the 1904 World’s Fair by the Smithsonian Institution at a cost of $17,500.

It was supposed to be moved to the organization’s National Zoo in Washington D.C. after the fair ended, but St. Louis residents protested, and the Smithsonian generously allowed the city to buy the flight cage for $3,500.

Pieces of sky framed by the Birdcage's ribs, with artfully placed birds. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Cost of the birds was extra. Records show that these charges included $7.50 for a pair of Mandarin ducks and $20 for four Canada geese.

Today it’s been turned into a cypress swamp that houses aquatic birds commonly found along the Mississippi River.

Looking through the pictures that I took back in 2006, I was struck by the amazing likeness between art and the real thing. The art is part of the glass tile mural outside the cage and the real things are the birds that live in the aviary.

I found both beautiful, particularly when I thought about the artist who created the mural.

Now I’m curious to know who was the artist.  Do you know?

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“I have the world’s largest collection of seashells. I keep it on all the beaches of the world … perhaps you’ve seen it.” – Steven Wright

Wave-watching from the Quintana Jetty on the Texas Gulf Coast. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum’s latest antics in “Explosive Eighteen” called louder to me last night than the Cowboys and Giants.

This ruddy turnstone was also wave-watching. -- Photo by Pat Bean

So after dinner with my son and his family, I escaped back out to my RV to read instead of watch the Dallas Cowboy?New York Giants football game. As a Dallas native, I’m an avid cowboy fan, but I seldom watch football these days, preferring instead to read about the game the next day.

I also knew that this particularly game was going to spark family tensions. My Texan son, Lewis, would be pulling for the Cowboys, while my fantastic New Yorker daughter-in-law, Karen, would be rooting for the Giants. Both of them are rabid followers of their teams.

My son left for work before I got up this morning, but my daughter-in-law stopped by my RV to say good-bye before she left for the day. I

Footprints in the sand intrigue me. -- Photo by Pat Bean

didn’t need to ask who won. The smile on her face lit up the overcast dawn. Hopefully my son will have cheered up by the time he gets home.

In the meantime, I have errands to run. I have to mail off Christmas packages and get propane for my RV, which means a road trip from Lake Jackson to Brazoria.

After that, Maggie and I are going to the beach for a little bird-watching, wave-watching and sand-walking. I can’t think of a better way to spend the afternoon. Can you?

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“Both the grand and the intimate aspects of nature can be revealed in the expressive photograph. Both can stir enduring affirmations and discoveries, and can surely help the spectator in his search for identification with the vast world of natural beauty and the wonder surrounding him. – Ansel Adams

 

Vermilion flycatcher: Unlike many flycatchers that look alike, there is no mistaking this species. -- Photo by Pat Bean

 

Bird Talk

I’ve always wanted to know the names of things, but I wasn’t exactly pathetic about the need until I took up birding back in 1999.

I came late to this addictive passion, suddenly being amazed at all the birds around me. Where once these flying creatures were invisible, as if existing in a parallel world with a curtain drawn between them and me, suddenly I was seeing them everywhere.

My fascination with birds can be annoying to non-birders. A shadow flicks across the landscape and I lose my place in a conversation as my eyes turn upward searching for the source.

I constantly scan the tops of utility poles looking for familiar profiles. The sight of a red-tailed hawk sitting atop one causes me to yell “stop” to the car driver. A rustle or movement of leaves and I am distracted from a task. No roadside pond goes unscanned. Well, you get the idea.

 

The unique profile of a hammerkop makes it a hard bird to misidentify. But you'll have to go to the African continent if you want to see one. -- Photo by Pat bean

But seeing a bird is not enough. I must know what bird it is.

Is that a crow or a raven was one of my first identification problems. The raven is larger but size, without a comparison, is not much help. So I learned that a crow’s tail is razor straight at the end, while a raven’s tail is wedge-shaped. Ravens also are the ones who suffer bad-hair days.

Many flycatchers, meanwhile, still puzzle me. Quite a few look almost exactly alike. A long look through a good scope, and knowing preferred ranges and habitats of each species, is necessary for identifying these birds.

 

You won't find this bird in any field guide. It's a mallard hybrid. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Knowing that you’re looking at a flycatcher is easy, however. One usually sees them sitting up straight on a branch. They fly out to catch an insect and then most return to the same branch to repeat the process. If I have long enough to watch, and a good field guide, sometimes I can even figure out whether it’s a dusky or a willow, or one of several other flycatchers showing off for me.

When I was first learning to bird, there was this one particular duck that completely stumped me. While I had a really good look at the creature, I couldn’t find it in my field guide. I finally gave up and asked one of my birding mentors, who immediately broke into laughter.

The duck in question was a mallard hybrid. Since then I’ve seen a lot of these unique, but sterile offspring. Mallards, it seems, are sluts.

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